January 11, 2012 – Gardens by the Bay & HortPark, Singapore
(written by Quill Teal-Sullivan, photographs by Wonsoon Park and Sara Levin)
The past two days have been full to the brim with visits to many of Singapore’s beautiful parks and urban green spaces. Tuesday morning started at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore’s newest and largest garden project sitting on one-hundred and one hectares encircling Marina Bay. We were greeted by Chris Dalzell, a former Longwood international intern who recently moved from South Africa to act as the garden’s Assistant Director of Garden Operations. Chris and his colleagues toured us around the site, which will be completed for an official public opening in June of this year. Gardens by the Bay features two large conservatories – one that will create a cool-dry Mediterranean climate, and the other a cool-moist mountain climate.
We were able to tour the Flower Dome, freshly planted with remarkable specimens imported from around the world. Most notable were the enormous baobabs planted on a cantilevered overlook, and the gnarled one-thousand-year old olive trees just in from southern Spain. Another highlight of the gardens were the eighteen “super trees” gracefully arching overhead, clad with epiphytes and climbers. The “super trees” are one of the spectacularly clever aspects of the garden design, acting as a venting system for the glasshouses, water catchment mechanism, solar energy receptor, as well as an aesthetic wonder.
After a lunch of various local delights, we met with Dan Burcham (our host with the most and LGP alumn), and his colleagues at the National Parks Board (NParks) to tour four exceptional urban greening sites. As part of Singapore’s vision of “the city in a garden”, NParks offers financial assistance to green the exterior of existing buildings. Three of the sites we visited were vertical green walls each designed by a different firm with a unique system and design philosophy. The end of a long and most stimulating day of garden touring culminated in a trip to the top of Marina Bay Sands Sky Park to decompress and admire the city from above.
On Wednesday we traveled to HortPark, a display garden within the NParks system that features small-scale garden exhibits aimed to inspire Singaporean residents to include gardens and horticulture in their home life. HortPark partners with local landscape companies that rent small plots to display their design, acting as publicity for the company and inspiration for the visitors. As Abby says, “it is the perfect collaboration between government, industry, and community”.
HortPark sits within the Southern Ridges region, a chain of parks, gardens and natural areas linked with ‘park connectors’. Two knowledgeable NParks staff, Wilson and Eric, led us on an excursion through a few of the natural areas. This included a jungle accessed by a 9 km canopy bridge, home to a delinquent gang of macaque monkeys, as well as a most beautiful wooden bridge with views to the sea and the city.
The evening was capped with a barbeque accompanied by the senior staff of NParks at the Outwardbound Singapore headquarters. We ate satay and fresh fruit in the evening heat, feeling so grateful for the generosity of our Singaporean hosts and, the incredible opportunity we have as Longwood students to experience the ‘city in a garden’.